In the 2015 case of KALAW VS. FERNANDEZ (GR. NO. 166357, 15 JAN 2015), the Supreme Court after saying in 2011 that the marriage should not be annulled, reversed itself and declared the marriage null and void on the ground of psychological incapacity.
What is the effect of this case on the on the annulment process in the Philippines and how should it be interpreted by annulment lawyers and judges hearing annulment cases?
It is our opinion the Supreme Court of the Philippines has effectively relaxed the rules on annulment.
Firstly, the facts of the cases will show that the ground of psychological incapacity to support the annulment petition was premised on the wife frequently going to mahjong sessions with her young children and being so self-absorbed with her physical appearance to men resulting in her habit of visiting beauty parlors too often. An argument can be made that these are no better than for instance sexual infidelity on the part of the wife (Dedel vs. CA, GR No. 151867, 29 January 2004) or abandonment for 4 years ( Santos vs. CA, GR No. 112019, Jan 4, 1995) where the Supreme Court denied the annulment. If playing too much mahjong and going to the beauty parlor too often is now psychological incapacity, then an annulment should be easier now.
Secondly, the Supreme Court in this case declared that it would be unjust to keep the parties in the marriage when both of them consider it to be beyond repair.
Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, it is not very often that the Supreme Court reverses itself after issuing a strongly-worded first opinion.That it chose to do so in this case shows an inclination to loosening the grip on the process of annulment cases and allowing couples in hopelessly unhappy marriages to finally move on.
Finally, in the sense that it has clarified previous confusing rulings on annulment, the net effect would likely be a faster and more efficient process as the family courts would take the cue from the Supreme Court.